Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | February 14, 2012

Fr. D’Abrew and the English Club

Father Peter D’Abrew had a very unique way of teaching us. He was the headmaster in the primary section of St. Lawrence, Calcutta and knew each and every student personally. So much so that he made it a point to visit their house occasionally in the four year period that they were scheduled to spend in the primary school. He always told us and our parents – “home is the best school and mother is the best teacher”. At that young age, a visit from Father D’Abrew was not something that we – the students liked. However, when he made one of those “surprise visits”, he had dinner with us, showed us magic tricks, told us stories and made us write in his diary about our favourite things. Imagine in those days of no cell phones (and our home did not have a telephone for long), the parents also were caught unaware when Father came over. Father D’Abrew wanted just that.

When we were in Class four (way back in 1987), Father D’Abrew taught us English. However, much beyond prescribed syllabus, Father D’Abrew employed interesting ways to teach us. We were around 100 boys (spread across three sections) I think, who were divided into around 10 teams in a club called “The English Club”. The teams were named Tankers, Bombers, and Submarines etc. Each team sat in a session of The English Club once week at lunch time with Father D’Abrew. In that one hour sessions, we quizzed, narrated self-written stories to each other, recited etc. Every individual was given points on their performances and the team received points too. Therefore, not only did the teams compete amongst themselves, as a participant you yourself aspired to be number one.

Father D’Abrew was not only a good storyteller but also a good writer himself. He wrote stories with super-heroes (such as Phantom, Spiderman, Superman, Mandrake and some others) as protagonist on back of cards (made out of used cigarette boxes). As a part of an English Club game we were then individually asked to arrange those cards to build a coherent story. For each superhero, Father D’Abrew had at least 10 different stories with different levels of difficulty. In those days, I found the exercise as interesting as solving a difficult puzzle. Today I realise how good that was, to help us develop coherent thinking. One was the stories had a famous superhero as the main protagonist and two they were absolutely new stories with incidents involving the school, my own city –immediately capturing my interest. I must have done around 50 such puzzles in a span of one year.

Unfortunately, I was ranked tenth in the English Club. My relatively below par performance was result of a three week suspension over a missed homework (which was a priority too). However, ranking tenth was good in a way. Based on our rankings we were allowed to choose our prizes out of the available ones,. Everyone who was ahead of me chose more attractive looking board games, and things such as cricket bat, football as prizes. I chose my first copy of a Tintin comic as a prize, a book that I still cherish. That book, a certificate and lot of learning were my precious gifts from attending the English Club.

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Responses

  1. Good to see you reminiscing about the debt you owe to an old teacher, Tanmoy. That gesture alone puts you a cut above 99% of mankind today.

  2. do you know where Fr D’Abrew is these days. I am an ex-Lawrencian.

  3. Fr Peter D’Abrew is no more. He died about 10 years ago!

  4. wonderful to read this. I myself have very fond memories about the English Club and Fr. D’Abrew. Got this as the first link when I googled his name. May he rest in peace, he was a great soul. I was in the English Club in 1985 I believe..


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